Coming into this debate, a lot of pundits thought Mitt Romney would benefit from having the other challengers gang up on him about health care. They were wrong since doing so would have exposed Romney’s vulnerabilities not confirmed him as the frontrunner.
Unfortunately for Tim Pawlenty, he listened to those voices urging caution and that provided the debate’s signature moment. Offered an opportunity to hit his main opponent hard on Obamneycare as he called it just a few days ago, Pawlenty whiffed. In the end, it really doesn’t matter whether it was because he was too nice or not courageous enough to call out Romney to his face. Either way he failed. It was a key moment in this race and one that Pawlenty will rue in the months to come. He walks away from the debate clearly weakened by this astonishing failure of either nerve or imagination. Instead of winning the competition between the two mainstream candidates, Pawlenty is now in danger of slipping back into the second tier.
The other candidates followed Pawlenty’s lead and Romney left the debate unscathed. That is a major victory for him and, almost in spite of his clear weaknesses, confirms him as the temporary frontrunner.
Among those second-tier candidates, the clear winner was Michelle Bachmann who demonstrated energy as well as a willingness to stand up for her Tea Party principles. Her debut on the national stage was a strong one.
The main reaction to the first GOP debate in South Carolina was a call for more candidates. Pawlenty’s failure will encourage those who want Rick Perry or Paul Ryan to run. But Bachmann’s strong showing ought to further discourage Sarah Palin whose populist mantle is now being seized by the congresswoman from Minnesota. Her hopes of being the second tier breakout candidate in 2012 as Mike Huckabee was in 2008 are much more realistic right now than they were two hours ago.
It’s early but if we must pick winners six months away from the first votes being cast, Mitt Romney is the mainstream frontrunner with Michelle Bachmann setting herself up as the potential wild card.
Not one of the candidates came close to articulating our purpose in continuing to fight our wars. Poor showing, but of a piece with the larger problem in the GOP field: a complete inability to define our challenges and inspire us to meet them.
Tim Pawlenty’s best moment of the debate comes just as it ends with a good line about Joe Biden being wrong about just about everything. And he throws a lollipop to Sarah Palin.
Santorum turns a question about cutting national defense into one about Obama alienating American allies. First mention tonight of Israel.
Michelle Bachmann tweaks Obama for “leading from behind” while at the same time opposing the effort to oust Qaddafi. Inconsistent though she scores a point about possible Islamists among the Libyan opposition.
Very strong. Bush-like, but in a way that most Americans would warm to. Our enemies will know no peace.
Choosing between Ron Paul’s foreign and defense policy and Obama’s is pretty easy. Of course, Tim Pawlenty won’t answer the question directly.
Mitt Romney gives the correct answer about not turning Afghanistan over to the Taliban though he almost fumbled it.
Santorum says phase out ethanol subsidies. John King is too interested in silly questions to see if Mitt Romney will defend ethanol. Ridiculous. In the South Carolina debate, the moderators were better than the candidates. Not here.
None of the candidates sounded a realistic note about immigration. For a party full of people who purport to be serious students of economics, it’s ridiculous that none were prepared to talk sense about this. For a century Marxists tried to repeal the laws of economics, now conservatives try to do the same when it comes to people coming to America to work.
He doesn’t want us to protect the border “between Iraq and Afghanistan.” That’s good because there is no border between Iraq and Afghanistan.
Michelle Bachmann doesn’t pass on the chance to tweak her old rival Pawlenty on abortion. Though Pawlenty is also pro-life, she doesn’t miss. The battle for Iowa evangelicals is on.
Rick Santorum gets the opportunity to take a shot at Romney on abortion. Unlike Pawlenty who whiffed on Obamneycare, he doesn’t pass up the chance to tweak him. Nobody else wants to mess with Romney. Score one for Santorum.
Michelle Bachmann starts out answering a question about gay marriage by supporting the 10th amendment and then morphs into a commercial for her charity for children. Good moment for her.
Bad showing all around on the Muslim question. There’s one right answer: I would hire any American I believed could do the best for my administration and my country–any race, religion, or creed. The meandering into crazy Sharialand and different types of Muslims will cost the GOP.
Mitt Romney of all people could have sounded a stronger note about religious prejudice while still making a point about the threat from Islamists. He didn’t. Weak.
Herman Cain’s answer about his comments about Muslims are still appalling. His comments about sharia law and terrorism don’t save him. They just make it worse.
Ron Paul has to be careful when talking about faith. He could be offending his libertarian fan base by supporting the right of Christians to speak out in the public square.
Yes, this is a Republican debate. A question about church-state separation was answered by Tim Pawlenty saying that government isn’t there to defend us from religion.
A boring moment about whether or not raising the debt ceiling was saved by Michelle Bachmann’s quote of Senator Barack Obama’s opposition to doing it when Bush was president. Another good moment for her.